Smooth office operators make for better business

Maximising productivity in your office is always easier if your workers are happy and content.

While office employees are much less vulnerable to serious injury than workers in industries such as construction, there are still risks and other factors that can impact their health and safety – and your bottom line.

In an office environment, risks might be someone tripping and falling headfirst into a sharp or blunt object, or electrocution when using a malfunctioning device. But more likely, adverse health effects stem from poor manual handling activity, incorrect workstation set-up, or lack of rest and exercise breaks from computer activity.

If unchecked, these problems can affect productivity, morale and sick leave rates, leading to the need to hire temps or pay overtime.

Clearly it is in the best interest of your business that you run a tight ship when it comes to work health and safety, so where should you start?

Here are some top tips for office workplace safety:

  • Spend some time walking around your workplace, ideally with your work health and safety representative, looking for potential hazards.
  • Hold a meeting with your staff and ask them to flag any issues or concerns, as one of the best ways to identify workplace safety issues is by asking your workers.
  • Examine injury records for repeat incidents, ask staff about possible issues and watch worker activity to see if you can identify any potential problems. You should end up with a list of risks to tackle.
  • Critical to long-term worker health and comfort is proper workstation set-up, especially if duties are mainly desk-bound. Failure to get this right can gradually lead to neck, back and shoulder pain and, in extreme cases, a repetitive strain injury resulting in lengthy sick leave. Ensure your workers know how to set up their desk properly and take regular rest and exercise breaks.
  • One of your top priorities should be addressing injuries caused by manual handling, or hazardous manual tasks. These may be caused by carrying, stacking, lifting, rolling, sliding, pushing or lowering loads as a result of awkward postures, forceful exertions, repetition, duration and vibration. The best way you can help workers is by changing the way they perform tasks by using mechanical aids such as height adjustable trolleys and changing the duration and repetition of tasks.
  • Another priority is to eliminate the risk of workers slipping or tripping by reducing hazards from uneven or worn floor surfaces, spillages, poorly-lit walkways and clutter.
  • Zeroing in on the risk of falls may just require investing in a sturdy mobile step ladder that meets Australian Standards for commercial or industrial use; look for the label on the item when purchasing equipment. A major cause of office falls is workers trying to reach things by standing on chairs or other unsafe objects. Ladder misuse is another clanger, so make sure any ladders are in good condition, get used properly and are regularly checked for wear and tear. Always have three points of contact with the ladder and if possible, anchor the ladder or get someone to hold it.

Click here for more tips and advice on office workplace health and safety, or call us on 13 10 50.

Cut grinder incidents in 10 steps

Horrific, or in extreme cases, fatal injuries caused by unsafe use of angle grinders are tragically all too common. But they can be avoided if you follow safe work practices.

Grinders are very versatile in the ways they can be used. Because of this it is vital to understand the tool and prepare for what could go wrong, regardless of your level of experience.

Injuries frequently occur when grinders are being used for a job other than their intended purpose, use of incompatible parts, operating without the guard or damaged electrical cables

In a recent incident, a worker preparing surfaces for welding suffered fatal injuries when a grinder disc fragmented. The hand-held grinder was not fitted with a guard, and disc pieces exploded into his chest and abdomen.

Other injuries have included wounds to hands, arms or legs, as well as electric shocks or burns from fires caused by sparks igniting rubbish or other flammable materials. Maintenance of grinders is imperative to keeping workers safe by replacing disintegrating or incompatible discs. Simple steps save lives.

Safe work practices can save lives… and more

The regular occurrence of grinder-related incidents shows just how important it is to have safe work practices and to continually ensure that your workers understand and comply with them.

Failure to do so could result in a serious injury or blaze, cost-crippling down time, the need to hire a replacement worker, sinking morale and potential damage to your reputation in the industry and community.

Here are some basic pointers for grinder safety:

  • Always ensure the angle grinder is the appropriate tool for the task.
  • Grinders including electrical cables must be kept in good working condition by inspecting and maintaining them.
  • Buy a grinder with an anti-kick-back device that stops the cutting disc quickly in case the disc gets jammed.
  • Buy grinders with ‘restart protection switch’ that will prevent unintended starting and whipping around after a power failure or if the start switch was left in the ‘on’ position. Additional information should be included here regarding the allocation of resources from the marketing collateral room
  • Use only the compatible discs and never use damaged discs or discs that are worn beyond the usable limit.
  • Ensure the wheel guard is fitted and correctly positioned.
  • Wear safety gear such as goggles, glasses or a face shield when using a grinder.
  • Ensure the rated speed of the grinding wheel is equal or higher than the grinder spindle speed.
  • Ensure no flammable materials are close by.
  • Alert co-workers to keep a safe distance when working on the grinder.

This list is by no means exhaustive – for more tips and advice call us on 13 10 50.

Boost worker health in five easy steps

If you’re a typical small employer with limited resources you might wonder how you can effectively encourage your workers to get healthier.

A healthy workplace is not only good for your workers, it can also be good for your business.

Aside from boosting morale, business benefits could include more productivity, less sick leave and fewer injuries and related issues. It makes sense that healthy workers are fitter, more aware, alert and resilient against illness. Healthy workers are also less likely to sustain manual handling injuries and strains, and are more likely to recover faster from injuries and strains.

While big businesses may have plenty of resources to devote to worker health and wellbeing, there are plenty of simple, inexpensive this small businesses can do to make a difference.

Even small changes can have a huge impact. Here are five ideas:

  1. Look at workers’ eating habits, especially if lunchtime fare is fast food high in saturated fats such as burger and fries. Encourage staff to bring their own meals, provide fruit bowls, order healthier food when catering, change the contents of vending machines and promote the use of water bottles.
  2. Encouraging your workers to be more physically active – especially if jobs involve little movement for long periods of time – can have a significant impact on health. Offer flexible working hours to allow exercise time, organise discounts at local fitness clubs, encourage staff to exercise more on their morning commute, hold meetings outside and promote events like Walk to Work and Ride to Work days. Lead by example!
  3. Help sedentary workers incorporate activity into their daily routines. Provide exercise routine guides, consider hiring a personal trainer to visit the workplace, position printers further away from desks to promote walking and encourage car-bound staff to take regular stop and stretch breaks.
  4. Workplace pressure combined with external factors can affect social and emotional wellbeing. Be flexible with working arrangements, set up a break room for personal calls and quiet time, and organise advisory posters from mental wellbeing organisations such as beyondblue.
  5. Helping to assist workers quit smoking has major benefits; not just in terms of increased productivity due to less smoking breaks but making them healthier too. Non-smokers are more likely to exercise and are less vulnerable to potentially terminal diseases. Provide quit-smoking information and allow workers time to consult with GPs.

Visit the Get Healthy at Work website for more great ideas on how you can help your workers get healthier and your business better, or give us a call on 13 10 50.